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Edval’s timetabling experts enhance efficiency

Edval’s new Timetabler-in-Residence service provides a new model for school timetabling by pairing decision-makers with timetabling experts to deliver efficiency and long-term cost benefits, writes David Elliot-Jones.

The Timetabler-in-Residence (TIR) service is available to existing Edval customers and schools who intend to use Edval software for their timetabling needs. Edval will initially consult with interested parties to design a package and a price that reflects the size and complexity of the adopting school. A dedicated TIR consultant will attend necessary meetings and work mostly offsite to construct the initial timetable and will be available throughout the year to maintain the timetable according to shifting needs.

Edval consultants have a wealth of experience gained through working both in and with a wide variety of schools and are timetabling year round. As such, they are often able to see alternative solutions to tricky timetable situations. They also have an in-depth knowledge of the software itself – solutions can be modelled quickly and easily for a school with the result that the school will have a higher quality solution that benefits all: students, teachers and the budget.

Schools also benefit from the ‘hive mind’ of the larger Edval team. Edval consultants use their combined experience to solve tricky problems, and should the dedicated consultant fall ill or be momentarily unavailable, other Edval consultants will step in.

Why Outsourcing the Timetable is More Intuitive

A good school timetable should balance factors such as student needs, teacher requirements and resource availability, without losing sight of school priorities. The problem is that each of these factors are subject to change – especially during peak timetabling times – and in-house timetablers don’t always have the flexibility to adjust.

Typically, schools allocate the timetable duty to teachers or non-teaching support staff. There are pros and cons to each of these options.

Teachers can relate to school dynamics, such as student wellbeing, teacher needs and educational outcomes to deliver a realistic (and hopefully balanced) timetable. But equally, their ‘on-the-ground’ status can limit their timetabling capacity. Tough timetabling decisions can be disrupted by friendship or loyalty, and teaching can often take priority at crucial times when extras hours are required to test and action changes in the timetable.

On the other hand, support staff can deliver relatively unbiased outcomes and are better placed to focus on the timetable during peak periods, but significantly lack the on-the-ground ‘know-how’ of teachers. For each of these options timetabling training incurs a cost and there is always the risk of staff turn-around or reallocation.

Edval’s Timetabler-in-Residence service streamlines the timetabling process. Key-decision makers, paired with an Edval consultant, can have changes tested and actioned promptly (usually within 24 to 48 hours). In addition to their timetabling expertise, Edval consultants understand schools (most have worked in them) and will take extra care to understand individual school needs. Converting timetabling to work completed by a service is also more economical, since more hours can be applied when needed, such as during peak timetabling periods. Moreover, the offsite nature of the service eliminates structural issues such as the approval-process, bias and limited contact hours.

Christian Brothers College: Early Adopters of Edval’s Timetabler-In-Residence Program

Christian Brothers College, an R-12 Catholic school based in Adelaide, decided to trial the Timetabler-in-Residence service after Edval helped construct a successful 2016 timetable at a late stage in Term 4 last year.

For the 2017 school year, following the resignation of the regular school timetabler, Assistant Principal of Learning Dr Sean Mangan assumed the timetabling responsibility in a decision-making capacity, pairing with Adelaide-based Edval consultant Debra Allen.

“Deb’s strength is that she can dedicate her whole time to [timetabling], whereas my time is often pulled in lots of different directions, and I might not get the concentrated time that she can put in,” Dr Mangan said.

“To have someone purely focussed on the best possible timetable for a school is a real advantage. Deb largely works remotely, so I’ll email her things and ask her to do them for me, and then she’ll get back to me fairly promptly.”

At the time of writing, Christian Brothers College are holding student re-counselling for subject choices. With Debra on-hand to log prospective changes in real-time, the process has been markedly swifter than the previous year.

Drawing from her extensive timetabling experience, Debra is also able to foresee any problems that may emerge with proposed changes and offer a broader insight to help inform the timetabling direction.

“We have fortnightly meetings with executives where she puts on the screen what the line structure’s looking like, how many students have enrolled in these classes and which classes therefore are viable and which are not. She’ll give us a briefing and then we’ll discuss whether to combine classes to ensure their viability,” Dr Mangan said.

Dr Mangan regards the Timetabler-in-Residence service as an investment to help cut staffing costs in the long-term. Even though the college is only three months into its year-long trial, he says that Debra is “already demonstrating” such savings.
“Staffing is always your biggest cost in a school. Not that you want to reduce staff, but at the end of the day you have to run effectively and that’s probably the biggest economical saving we’re going to make [with the Timetabler-in-Residence service],” Dr Mangan said.

A timetabler himself, with over ten years’ experience in previous roles, Dr Mangan was initially sceptical about outsourcing the timetable.

“ I thought ‘I don’t want someone else doing our timetable, they don’t know the school, they don’t know the ins-and-outs and the politics and the part time needs and the different needs that staff have’,” Dr Mangan said.

“But Deb has really gotten into the skin of the school by coming as often as she can to meetings and we’ll walk around the school and we’ll look at which buildings are going to be for which year levels – so she’s not just blindly timetabling.”

The biggest benefit for Dr Mangan, however, has been the overall quality of the timetable, which he sees as enhancing student and teacher satisfaction, and improving efficiency.

“The timetable is the engine room, operationally, for a school. If a timetable is running well, then generally the students have the subjects that they want, teachers are generally in the right subjects as well.”

Corwin and ACEL

Corwin and ACEL announce partnership expansion

Two leading professional learning organisations announce an important expansion of their current partnership that will enhance educators’ leadership capacity through more high quality professional learning experiences. The expanded partnership will provide increased options for educators, including professional development series in Literacy, Assessment, and Student and Principal Voice, as well as an ACEL/Corwin bookstore and a selection of online learning modules.

Read more

Doin’ Time author Rachel Porter shares insights into troubled youth

In her new book, Author and General Manager of Whitelion (a charity supporting Australia’s vulnerable young people), Rachel Porter delves into the lives of nine Australian men from troubled backgrounds who have lived through incarceration and managed to change their lives around. Read more

Rachel Porter

Doin' Time author Rachel Porter shares insights into troubled youth

How will the stories of the men in this book speak to both teachers and parents? The stories in the book take the reader on a journey of the turbulent childhoods of nine men who have been through very abusive circumstances some of them were incarcerated as children but in the end they have gone onto happy, healthy lives often giving back considerably to society. It’s really important to understand the perspective of young people involved in these situations. What influences were in their life that led them to being incarcerated? What role did adults have in their life leading up to the time of their offending? What could the adults in their lives have done more or less of to help these young people and lead them on a more constructive journey? It also speaks to the potential within each individual – every person has the possibility of a positive future regardless of their current circumstances. What advice would you give to educators to help identify vulnerable children at risk and how should they respond? It’s important that educators notice behavior changes in students to help identify early warning signs of vulnerability in children and young people.  Some early warning sign indicators could include:

  • Changes in behaviour or mood
  • Staring episodes / withdrawing from others
  • Eating and sleep disturbances
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Exaggerated startle response
  • Irritability and outbursts of anger
  • Hypervigilance – jumpy or fidgety
  • Restricted or excessive display of emotions
Remember that adolescents may display some of these characteristics as part of being a normal teenager. What educators need to look for in terms of risk factors are extreme or prolonged changes in behavior that are getting in the way of the young person’s daily functioning. [caption id="attachment_3011" align="alignleft" width="197"]Doin' Time book. Doin’ Time by Rachel Porter.[/caption] Young people are also likely to take risks in response to life difficulties or stressful events so special care and attention should be given at these times. Are there programs or organisations that teachers and parents can offer support to? Whitelion and its range of programs to support young people is the obvious choice that I would mention in this context. Volunteering opportunities exist for mentoring, mobile outreach, employment, youth programs and back of house support and we appreciate any offer of assistance.   Also, the importance of prevention programs in schools can’t be underestimated. Whitelion has a range of preventative wellbeing programs for young people through Stride. These programs build the physical, social, emotional skills of young people to equip them with skills for life.  Stride run workshops for young people in schools and community settings as well as providing teachers with training to help support their students.   What can the average person do to help change the culture of detention that has been highlighted as an increasing problem in Australia? We should be challenging our own assumptions first and then think collectively about how we respond as a society.  Some questions we could ask ourselves could be:
  • What do we think about young people in detention?
  • Do we understand the circumstances that may have led them there?
  • What do these young people need to help redirect their lives positively so that they can become helpful and contributing members of society?
Once we understand the issues involved, then we can move collectively towards a change in culture. We can urge our politicians, leaders and detention workers to treat young people in detention as people – giving them respect, education, support and opportunities to do better in their future. Doin’ Time (Rockpool Publishing, $29.99) by Rachel Porter was launched in September this year.]]>

NGV's new code learning initiative

Art gallery invites students to engage through code

The National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) will invite students to use code with a view to animate its famous Picasso beginning in term four this year.

NGV’s Digital Creatives initiative, developed in partnership with Telstra, combines the gallery’s art collection with digital technology in offering students alternative ways of understanding and engaging with art.

As part of the Digital Creatives offering, Art/Code/Create workshops will be held at the NGV’s education studios and gallery spaces, making use of the gallery’s consultation with non-profit organisation, Code Club Australia and Scratch – a program that teaches students the foundations of coding.

“Artists have used materials and tools in innovative ways to make art throughout history. Contemporary artists working today use a variety of technologies to create artworks, including virtual reality technology, 3D printing and robotics,” said Tony Ellwood, NGV’s Director.

“NGV Digital Creatives introduces students to computer code and digital technologies and prepares the next generation of Australian artists with new art making materials,” he said.

The initiative also offers a full-day coding workshop for teachers in order to help them build confidence in this area, which the NGV says is a part of its commitment to supporting the development of digital literacy in children.

Code Club Australia’s General Manager, Kelly Tagalan commented on the natural link between coding and art.

“Coding is the language of the 21st Century – and is increasingly becoming the canvas of artists around the world. Code Club is proud to have supported the development of NGV’s inaugural coding workshops, which will empower students through both art and technology,” Ms Tagalan said.

The NGV has a long history in offering interdisciplinary education programs, with NGV Education first established in 1950.

Your School 2016 cover image

The Australian’s Your School publication highlights divide

Using the recently released NAPLAN results to create a ranked list of Australia’s schools, The Weekend Australian‘s Your School analysis demonstrates a clear divide in the results of high-fee private schools compared with those of their public school counterparts.

The publication provides information on over 9,000 schools nationwide, including state-by-state rankings of schools, which can be sorted by secondary, primary, most funded, least funded and more.

Independent schools currently make up three-quarters of all high schools in the top 100 according to overall performance.

The Your School analysis arrives at a time when the school funding debate appears to have been rekindled in maintstream media, recently stoked by comments from the Federal Minister for Education, Senator Simon Birmingham on ABC’s Q&A programme.

However, social and financial disadvantage have significant influence on education and, as Senior Lecturer in Research Methodology, Education Assessment and Evaluation at Sydney University, Rachel Wilson told The Weekend Australian, NAPLAN ‘was not a particularly sensitive test and was designed to set up benchmarks to identify schools that were performing poorly’.

As an example, Ms. Wilson points out that “Tasmania has a much lower income per capita and much higher levels of disadvantage and that’s reflected in their poorer performance”.

Australian Education Union president, Correna Haythorpe concurred, saying that public schools are “performing as well as private, once socio-economic background is taken into account”.

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